Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I'm getting old, part 423,967.

Yes, I am. I was reading journals tonight, and the latest entry from a lady I very much admire caught my attention.

She's a newspaper reporter, a talented writer on her way to greater heights. She wrote eloquently about being in the office late and receiving a hot-off-the-press copy of tomorrow's paper. That put me in full reminiscence mode.

When I was in my early teens, I worked for a newspaper. As a delivery boy. It wasn't much of a paper, really; just a weekly community rag short on news and long on ads.

Each Wednesday, I'd walk or ride my bike down to the office to get a stack of papers for next-day delivery. Once I had them home, I'd fold each paper, encircle it with a green rubber band, and stuff it in my canvas delivery bag.

I didn't make a lot of money. Subscribers paid 25 cents per month, and no one had to pay. The paper went to every house on my route whether the resident subscribed or not.

PARENTHETICAL NIPPING-AN-EMBRYONIC-BUSINESS-TYCOON-IN-THE-BUD THOUGHT: Once, I decided to deliver only to subscribers in order to boost the number of paying customers. My grand plan failed; several non-subscribers called the paper to complain (none volunteered to pay), and I got a hell of a rocket from the office. I lost some of my enthusiasm after that....

I always arrived early on Wednesday night. I was fascinated by what might grandly be called the "pressroom." The press seemed huge, black and ancient. The strange motions it went through turning raw paper from the huge roll at one end into printed and folded finished copies at the other end held my eyes.

In the same room was a Linotype machine, which set the rows of lead type that, set in wooden frames, went into the press. For some reason its operator worked on Wednesday nights, so the silvery clatter of his machine provided a kind of counterpoint to the rhythmic noises of the press.

And then there were the smells, as heady in their own way as the smell of fresh-cut grass on a baseball diamond on a warm summer night. Hot lead from the Linotype, the distinct aroma of the newsprint and, all-pervasive, the tang of printer's ink.

I said it was a small paper. The "editorial office" was tiny; I think the staff numbered four or five, apart from the editor, pressman and Linotype operator.

One was the circulation manager. His job seemed primarily to ride herd on the delivery boys and take calls from irate customers -- or non-customers -- whose paper was wet, thrown on the roof or missing.

I remember the circulation manager. He was a youngish man who lived with his mother and drove a 1952 Pontiac. The car was immaculate, white with a silver top. It seemed cool to me, but was probably all he could afford.

One Wednesday night, I went to collect my papers and someone else was there to dole them out. The circulation manager had been killed earlier that day when a truck slammed into his nifty Pontiac. I remember that the radio was on, cranked up high to drown out the press, in the pressroom; the tune it was playing was, gruesomely enough, "Our Day Will Come." His day had come, all right.

Every time I hear that tune, I remember that night.

Not long after, I took a job at the local pharmacy. It paid better.

Oddly enough, though I already enjoyed writing, and had had plenty of exposure to a "real" newspaper, I never connected the dots.

I wish I had. Perhaps I'd now be the editor of some small-town newspaper somewhere, presiding over a staff of four or five and thinking myself a big, fish, indeed. I know I'd walk out into the back to watch the press every night we published....

I think about that sometimes. It's a tasty fantasy to a dinosaur like me in this speed-of-light world of internet news, instant communication and dying newspapers.

And I know as the editor I would offer Kari a job if her work came to my attention. If she accepted, I'm certain she wouldn't stay long. She's on her way to something far better than the metro paper for which she works. The thrill of writing stories about local events for a tank-town crowd (at coolie wages, to boot) would have little appeal for someone like her, I guess.

It does for me, however. Having seen the bright lights of the big city, I often yearn for something quieter and simpler. And slower.

Years after my delivery-boy days, my hometown paper had been swallowed up, and had become a "regional" section in a larger paper. Last time I was there, it had vanished altogether, and the old building was gone, too.

Its day had come. Has mine?

Monday, September 29, 2008

A few more photos from the show...

...taken in large measure to distract myself from feeling miserable.

The attempt failed, but I rather like the photos.

First off, the radiator badge from a rare French car circa 1910. I didn't recognize the name -- and don't remember it -- but I think the badge is cool...

The Minerva, a luxury car built in Belgium in the 1920s, bore a likeness of its namesake goddess on its radiator cap...

I always like tailfins, especially those brash appendages on a 1959 Cadillac. That's a factory-original paint color, by the way, unbelievably called Persian Sand...

Another French "invention," circa 1910: canvas fenders! Practical, and easy to replace when damaged...

Finally, a Model "A" Ford from 1929. What made this particular car a crowd-pleaser was its utter originality, from paint to upholstery to mechanical components. Only the tires, fan belt and radiator hoses have been replaced, and beyond that the owner has only cleaned it...

And that's all I have to say or show regarding this day.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I wasn't there...

...or, more accurately, I was there but wishing I wasn't; today was not a particularly happy experience.

I had promised some time back to be a judge at a car show today. My life is a sh*t sandwich at the moment, and shows no signs of getting anything but worse; I wasn't in the mood to hang with a bunch of zillionaires and their pampered wheels, thank you very much.

But, since I promised, and posting photos is less stressful for you and me than whining, I made the 57-mile trek (each way) and, suitably attired in jacket and tie, I did what I said I'd do. And I took a few pics.

It was damn foggy at 7:30 a.m., but the cars were already parked on the golf course....

As usual, there was a wide variety of cars, from this early-1900s De Dion Bouton...

...to this lovely and unusual Rolls-Royce Phantom I with a rare boat-tail custom body...

...to Cadillacs, like this ultra-luxurious '58 Eldorado Brougham, one of roughly 400 with bodies built in Italy, with "suicide" rear doors and stainless-steel roof panels...

...and even some racers, like this Ferrari Monza, which was also for sale. I (and a friend or two) could retire for what it will change hands for. Think seven figures (to the left of the decimal point)...

I have a few other shots, which will fill the following post. My heart wasn't really in it, though, and it took a hell of a lot of energy -- too much -- to maintain a professional, friendly demeanor.

Never mind, though. The other people seemed to have a good time.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I want to rip out my eyes...

...because they hurt. Naturally, they hurt most when I'm staring at the computer while working.

I have two pairs of glasses, both bifocals: one is for driving, the other is for computer work and reading. The former give me no troubles.

But squinting through the latter has become a painful experience. So I guess it's time to head off to the eye doctor and get new specs. When I can wrest the extra money from what I perversely term a "budget," that is.

Oddly enough, most of the time I don't wear glasses, and I do just fine. I can read most things, can walk, shoot pictures, even drive* and never notice I'm somehow visually challenged.

Hand me a book, or plunk me down in front of the 'puter, though, and everything seems to go blurry.

I didn't wear them until I hit my mid-20s anyway. My first eye doctor, senile when I was first taken to him at about age six and progressively worse thereafter, said they wouldn't help me. My parents believed him; for some reason I have long ago forgotten, they had been convinced that I would go blind during my childhood, and I was, for a time, put in a class with blind kids and started on learning Braille.

During my last eye exam, the doc mentioned that contacts would be good for me, but hard as I tried, I found jamming those puppies in my eyes a psychologically draining task.

I know better than to dream of surgery, laser or otherwise. That ain't cheap, and even if I had the spondulics for it someone would be right there with hands out, asserting a prior claim.

Maybe I just don't wanna work anymore. I suspect there's some heavy truth behind that, but I don't feel like going there right now.

With or without glasses, I can see beauty clearly. I know what sight would soothe my hurtin' eyeballs the most, but it is far beyond my field of vision.


* The last time I renewed my license, my eyes were tearing so much from something in the air at the DMV office that I ripped off my specs and did the eye test without. But the clerk still checked off the "must wear corrective lenses" box.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Journey beyond the edge of the Earth...

...as I finally managed to make it down to the classified location where my friend Juan (a/k/a "Senor Hospitality") lives. Knowing he is notoriously shy about revealing his whereabouts, I took his directions with the proverbial grain of salt, and cross-checked them with MapQuest.

Their directions seemed even more dubious ("take Forest Service Road 39TJ05...") so I relied on his litany of strange signs, mile markers, pavement changes, end of pavement/start of dirt road, etc., and drove South.

I thought I had gone too far when I started seeing beat-up vintage Dodge vans with Mexican license plates, but realized I had only been on the road for 10 minutes and was still heading toward downtown Los Angeles....

Eventually -- "eventually" being roughly 2 1/2 hours later -- I made it to his pad, which seemed to still be in the same time zone. While small, it's a wonderful place with a view that would command Big Bucks in any accessible place.

After coffee, we toured the neighborhood via a maze of dirt roads. I didn't take any photos, since it reminded me of a desert town I once visited -- the colleague who accompanied me there looked around and said: "it's so quiet that I can hear people cocking their AK-47s!" -- and I was concerned about violating security rules for the trip....

But the scenery was great and it was, despite the presence of some hungry- (and deadly-) looking dogs, nicely pastoral...

I wondered if I had traveled too far and had somehow made it all the way to the Andes when this curious llama ambled up to the fence...

In time, "Juan's" famous "TourMobile" carried us to a wide spot in the road where we stopped for beverages and Trail Mix...

All in all, a fine afternoon. We talked about all sorts of things that interested us, decided the world's problems didn't need to be addressed or settled today, had a few laughs and never got into an argument. Using readily-available vegetable components picked up at a roadside stand, he made us a snack which was quite tasty and filling. An excellent host!

In time, I had to leave, and did so, reluctantly. Never told him that the impending darkness had me in fear that the chupacabras might emerge from their caves. On the way out, I did manage a surreptitious snap of his bunker, carefully cropped here to remove all location-identifying marks...

A most enjoyable day. I'm looking forward to going back. Soon.

And now that I'm reasonably certain the rumors of cannibalism among the denizens of his neighborhood are most likely unfounded, I'm hoping I can bring someone with me. "Juan" is the kind of guy you want to introduce to your best friends.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

I'm easy.

I didn't have a good morning today. My work was not going well; in sheer and total desperation, I headed out to walk four miles or so. Halfway through, the sun burned through the fog, turning me into a sweaty, angry wreck by the time I made it back home.

And then the phone rang.

"Can you hear the ocean?" she said. Yes, I could hear a rhythmic rushing noise in the background, restful and so much different than the sound of the ocean here, which competes, not always successfully, with the noise of helicopters, airplanes, motorcycles and glass-pack-muffled '48 Chevies.

And I could hear the voice that makes me smile...happy, relaxed, with the unique, musical lilt of her heritage still strong despite the influences of different accents around her.

Grouchy as I was, I couldn't stop a smile from forming. I'm easy like that when she's around, whether we're talking on the phone or sitting next to each other.

"I'm studying," she said, "but I wanted to call."

Studying? At the beach? Her dedication is one of the things I admire most about her.

I study at the beach too, of course. I study rocks, sand, seagulls, pelicans, waves, people; never books, though.

What a nice mental picture it made: there she was on the sand, lithe and sleek as a seal, book in one hand, a pen for note-taking in the other. I somehow knew from the first time we met that the beach was her special place, and knew even hurricanes could not keep her away from it.

I love the beach. It's a major reason why I stay where I am despite the expense and other problems. If you look at our respective beaches, though -- I'm over here on your left; she's way over there on your right -- you'll see she generally has the better deal. No earthquakes there, and as far as I know fewer signs warning people not to act like human beings. Or not to eat the fish.

We talked about work -- mine, mostly -- and I promised to send her my latest article when it's done. I value her insights; she is a far better writer than she knows. That shows through in the most commonplace articles she takes on.

And fair is fair, after all...I have done a little editing of her work, which is as pleasurable as any red-pencil work I've ever done. In part, of course, because her writing needs so little cleaning-up.

"I have 17 pages to go," she said. "I need to get back to it."

Somehow, that didn't matter. She had already worked her magic, and I went back to my work with a smile.

She knows what to say to me when I'm not at my best, even as she knows what to say when I'm happy.

How can one not love a friend like that?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sad day so far...

...as I remember, as most of us remember, the events that took place on this day seven years ago.

Being three time zones away from the destruction in New York City that morning, I can only remember watching TV for endless hours, making calls to find out if people I cared about were safe (all were, thank God), and wondering what would happen next.

This documentary sums up, as well as anything I've seen, not only the terror of that morning but the attempts to reduce what happened to understandable, human terms.

An impossible task. It can't be rationalized or explained.

I remember the aftermath: the silent, empty skies, the countless stories of heroism and sacrifice, firefighters standing by highways accepting donations for their brothers and sisters in New York City, the brave words of politicians.

I remember, too, the revisionism that began almost immediately, the suppression of "disturbing" video images, the pleas to "understand" those who condoned, supported and participated in the attacks, the conspiracy theories, and the ultimate failure of the politicians to follow through on their brave words.

In other words, too many people reverted to their old, selfish, offensive and ineffective ways.

For most of us who experienced that day, even peripherally, the anger has not subsided. Nor has the deep sadness we feel for 2996 people who, without any say in the matter, became the victims of primitive hatred and, later, martyrs to a cause the politicians decreed as "right."

My feelings have not changed. What should have been done was not done, both before and after that day in 2001. We have tolerated savagery which should have been erased from the Earth. We have aided people whose aim was to destroy us, and our political "leaders" have stood side-by-side with them and called them "allies."

The world has not been the same since that day. And, until we find our way to common sense and a willingness to defend our nation and its people from harm, even at the risk of "offending" certain others in this world, we can never be entirely certain that Sept. 11, 2001 won't be repeated.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


...not the legs I'm thinking about, as I have neither pictures of them to post here nor permission to do so if I had any -- but some interesting legs I've seen on my last few walks.

My walking companion thought this was an egret, but wasn't sure. I haven't the faintest idea...

Definitely a peacock, a short way away from its normal habitat...

Obviously a spider, "floating" because back-lighting made its web invisible...

Something of a stressful day. So you get nature photos instead of whining.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Pay no attention to the man behind the...

...Hawaiian shirt!

The charming and beautiful lady on the left is one of my all-time favorite journal-keepers, Joan Perry. I am addicted to her work, which can be found here and here. And probably many other places, too.

A trip to a convention put her a mere 25 or so miles away, and we managed to work a get-together into her tightly packed schedule. So I went down tonight (in the supertanker, which barely fit in the Marriott's parking garage), to have a drink with her and spend a couple of hours in delightful chat...

PARENTHETICAL OH-FOR-A-FACE-TRANSPLANT THOUGHT: Damn, I look old! Can't help remembering what my Flip Wilson talking doll used to tell me when I pulled its string: "The ugly people know who they are...don't they?"

What a pleasure to meet someone so interesting to talk to! I've long considered her a friend -- in no small part because she was one of those who called when I was in hospital (using some rather devious means to locate me, I guess) and did so much to keep me glued to reality at that time -- and was thrilled to find out previous impressions were true. She is a friend, and the warmth she projects in her writing and the humanity one senses behind her photos are very real in person.

Thank you for a lovely evening, Joan!

Friday, September 05, 2008

Famine or feast...

...which, if you want to be correct in your quotes, goes the reverse direction. It's just not doing that for me.

Recent days have been sheer, unadulterated hell. No, worse than that. No ambition, no energy, no nothin' except fear that catastrophe was now unavoidable.

Thanks to those who helped, and a client who finally laid some loot on me (not to mention my hunch that my greedhead landlord would take a check of some size from me and cash it instead of throwing it back in my face and yelling -- in his best Bela Lugosi voice -- "get out!"), kept the worst from happening.

It did leave me with a Ford F250 diesel pickup (12.9 miles per gallon...sheesh!) I planned to use to haul all my crap to storage.

Worse, it left me an emotional wreck, almost motionless, and unable to deal with even the smallest things.

Most of the people I encountered during the worst of the meltdown didn't know. They got my usual positive, energetic self. And that, too, was incredibly wearing on me.

I ain't out of the woods. But I think I might see some evidence of a clearing ahead.

And now, the pendulum swings the other way.

As of yesterday, I had three articles to write within the next week or so. Not bad, as one had basic research done and the other two could be padded with, well, bull excreta.

Now I have six, and should have them all done within seven days if I am to maintain peace among the clientele. Three of them will not be easy.

But I'm not complaining.

Wait a minute, I am complaining. My photographer friend, D., can drive me into a vein-bursting rage with the easy way he promises delivery dates. That's fine for the photography -- he does that in a couple of hours -- but he either tells the editors the story is already written or won't take me any time.

Okay. I need the money. Otherwise, I'd simply ignore him.

Tonight, however, I have a relaxing and fun evening ahead (though it involves driving that supertanker through evening traffic to get where I need to be).

That will bring a smile to my face, and may even be the subject of a posting later tonight.

Today, I received copies of a magazine carrying a story that is my favorite piece of work in a long, long time. The editor remains delighted by it (as do I) though both of us first saw my finished copy four months or so ago. I seldom can read myself with fresh eyes, but this time I could. And it made me think, "damn, that boy is a helluva writer!"

None of the stories I have ahead this week will evoke that reaction barring some kind of miracle.

Enough of that, though. I'll be back later.